Beware of Benign Indifference
I have a large stable of vendors I use regularly and an even larger one of vendors who want my business. Certain vendors have been with me from the beginning, and I'll probably use them until I retire. Others have fallen by the wayside. Interestingly, it is not the massive mistake that causes me to change vendors. Rather, it is the culmination of minor incidents or worse, lack of any interaction, that eventually leads me to think - why am I working with vendor A whose only interaction with me is to periodically send an invoice, rather than vendor B, who doesn't even have my business yet occasionally writes or calls, chats with me at events and even remembers the name of my cat?
Rather than talk about what you can be doing to get new business, let's analyze what might you be doing to lose current business?
Are you guilty of any of the following?
- You have an associate or paralegal doing the work, so you don't need to touch base - the client is being served. Absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder. Even if the client is well-served, what message does your aloofness send? I don't have time for you? You are not important enough?
- You haven't been to the client's place of business in the past 12 months. I had a vendor stop in to drop off some pastries just because she was in the neighborhood. I am not a large account for her so I was absolutely floored by her thoughtfulness. I also use her a lot more now. I've had other vendors that I never met in person. Note the past tense.
- You have no idea with what issues your client is wrestling. A vendor looking to renew a contract presented me with all sorts of compelling data on why his product was the best and what great results his other clients have had using the product. All well and good, except the scenarios he presented were not ones that I cared about. His other clients' problems were not the same as my problems. Even worse, he never bothered to inquire what issues I was trying to solve, so he couldn't explain how his product might help me.
- When you do meet with the client, you do the majority of the talking. If you are talking, you are not listening. Your client is internally rolling his or her eyes. Think about it - you've been in that situation yourself. And I bet you couldn't wait until that windbag left.
- You pepper your discussion on how much time you have put in, how superior your skills are or how much other firms pale in comparison. Remember, a pat on the back is only a foot above a kick in the butt - especially when you are patting your own. If you are really that terrific, the client already knows it. And if you are not truly as great as you say you are, the client is thinking something a whole lot worse. And never, ever build yourself up by knocking your competition. It is just low rent.
Complacency will kill more relationships than drama. Don't take your clients for granted. It doesn't take much to let them know they are important to you and to your firm. And I can almost guarantee, if you're not talking with your client, someone else is.
Anne Parys is the director of marketing for Rothman Gordon, P.C., a Western Pennsylvania law firm.
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